A wedding marks Baghdad family's rising optimism
The Monitor checks in with the Methboub family in Iraq as they celebrate vows – and improvements in their lives.
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
"If I am not satisfied, I will change you!" she warns her beloved Bashar. The couple's quirky courtship included Fatima pelting his kitchen window with vegetables when she felt she needed his attention. "I achieved it – she is beside me!" replies Bashar, confidently dismissing her threat, then adding with a mischievous smile: "I have a spare if she runs away."
A household brimming with jubilant singing, dancing, and crying marked the union of Bashar with the eldest daughter of Karima Selman Methboub, a widow whose family of eight children is beginning to see their first rays of hope in five years. The slow but tangible trans-formation in these Iraqis' lives – due partly to a move from a tiny apartment on a bomb-prone street to a safer area of Baghdad – coincides with a dramatic drop in violence in the capital and improved security across much of Iraq.
"We had hope before, but we were not optimistic," explains Mrs. Methboub, standing in the kitchen of the spacious and less threadbare new apartment. "As our situation improves, so does the security. Now we are optimistic. We are living under the wings of God."
This family has suffered the same setbacks that have afflicted all Iraqis since the Monitor first met them in late 2002, as they were bracing for the American invasion. They overcame fear of the war and its chaotic aftermath. They have managed to keep their lives intact during years of ethnic cleansing, kidnappings, and car bombs – several close enough to shatter their windows.
And the dramas have continued. This wedding was postponed for months, because Bashar's brother was shot while trying to escape insurgents, the $4,000 medical bill causing a crisis for the groom-to-be.
Son Mahmoud, at 13 the youngest in the family, was run off the road by a turning bus while riding his bicycle a month ago; parts of the bike were smashed and need repair. The second-oldest son, Mohamed, joined the Iraqi Army seven months ago, has been deployed to the dangerous Sunni city of Ramadi, and has yet to see a single paycheck.
Indeed, amid the wedding preparations, emotions flare as lives changed by war are revealed.
"They occupied us and destroyed our country for five years," says a hairdresser brought in to do the girls' hair before the wedding. She is bitter, as she blow-dries daughter Amal: "They killed my brother. I hate them. No photos!"
"It's not him!" interjects Methboub, in defense of an American visitor who has asked to photograph the preparations.
Yet the universal concerns presented by the wedding far outweigh any anger for the evening, bringing a welcome sense of normalcy.
"I am very happy, but I am a little afraid because I am leaving my family for a new life and I don't know what it will be," says Fatima in a private moment before relatives arrive for the first night's festivities, a "henna party" in which dancing and sandwiches will be capped by daubing pasty brown henna into the palms of the bride and groom and those closest to them.